UMC, Hobbs using technology to spot guns, prevent tragedies

ZeroEyes alerted for an incident in Hobbs in August, 2023

(Image provided by ZeroEyes)

Police officers at University Medical Center got an alert about someone at the hospital with a gun. It was a prison guard. There was no emergency.

But the system identifying the gun alerted the police in five seconds or less.

“We know the technology works. It’s pretty neat,” said Scott Bradley, UMC police chief.

The technology is called ZeroEyes. You won’t see it because the system taps into existing security cameras.

Bradley has been in police work for 20 years. Mass shootings are a bigger issue now than when he first started, he said.

“We’ve always had them,” Bradley said, “but the frequency and the sheer number of victims involved has grown exponentially.”

ZeroEyes was made to detect a gun where it should not be and alert the police or other security people immediately.

How it started

ZeroEyes was co-founded by Sam Alaimo and is based in a Philadelphia suburb.

The company employs eight people in the Lubbock area.

“I was a Navy SEAL,” Alaimo said. “I did two tours to the Middle East. I got out in 2013.”

Sam Alaimo, co-founder, ZeroEyes, Zoom interview with
Sam Alaimo, co-founder, ZeroEyes

After coming home from duty, he felt a “lack of purpose” in his life. He wanted to do something meaningful which he did not find in the corporate world. Then, the Parkland High School shooting took 17 lives in Florida in 2018.

“We have a problem. It’s not going to go away,” he said.

Before co-founder Mike Lahiff became ZeroEyes CEO, his daughter participated in an active shooter drill. Lahiff asked the school how the security cameras were used.

“The answer was nothing,” Alaimo said. “The answer is, we would use them after a mass shooting.”

Those cameras would be used for the investigation, not prevention. That wasn’t good enough, Alaimo said.

“We dropped everything we were doing,” Alaimo said. They hooked up cameras to computers and outfitted them with algorithms and artificial intelligence.

No kids in school

The company was ready to hit the market just in time for COVID. Schools emptied out while the kids did distance learning. Schools, for a time, did not feel the need for ZeroEyes.

“To survive, we pivoted to commercial and government,” Alaimo said.

“That ended up being a great move,” he said. “What made us good in a grocery store in Michigan made us even better in a school hallway.”

Three local clients are UMC, the City of Hobbs and the Hobbs school system.

When COVID ended, the company got back to its passion. Schools.

When the alert sounds

Alaimo shared real-world results with In one case, he showed images from the parking lot of Del Norte Pool in Hobbs.

Someone pulled out a gun and pointed it in the general direction of a vehicle in the distance. Alaimo said the case resulted in an arrest and no one was hurt.

  • ZeroEyes resulted in arrest in Hobbs, no one was injured, November 2023

(Slideshow images from ZeroEyes, Hobbs, N.M., one from Nov. 2023 and two from Aug. 2023.)

At UMC in Lubbock the system does alert from time to time. So far, it’s never been for someone who meant to do harm.

“We have not had an actual case of that yet, thank goodness,” Bradley said. “But it does work.”

“Most of the time it’s someone in a hurry to get into the hospital to see somebody,” Bradley said. And if that someone is a concealed-carry license holder, the gun cannot come inside.

“They forget that they actually have the weapon on them. That’s what we’ve run into,” Bradley said. “And it’s real simple. We just ask them to go back out to the car and leave their weapon.”

How it works

Computers are getting better at recognizing guns – not mistaking them for hockey sticks or brooms.

But there are still false positives, Alaimo said.

So, every alert is seen by a person at ZeroEyes before it goes to police at UMC or in Hobbs. The computers are good enough that one analyst can monitor 10,000 cameras.

It also helps that ZeroEyes created its own monitoring center from scratch. The staff is mostly military veterans and former law enforcement.

“They’re very calm under pressure,” Alaimo said. “They’re very good at identifying guns in the midst of a lot of negative objects that aren’t guns.”

“The more veterans, the more patriotic people, the more people who give a damn, the better,” he added.

Not all those coming out of the military do well in their first job.

“We find that we’re an excellent bridge, because we can take them, we can give them a noble mission and a good fight,” Alaimo said.

ZeroEyes will not look for knives or explosives.

“Everything looks like a knife. A Snickers bar looks like a knife,” Alaimo said of grainy security video. For now, guns only.

Privacy is big

Alaimo brought up privacy several times.

“We’re just here to stop mass shootings again,” he said. “We don’t store biometric data.”

“We can’t store faces. We can’t store names. We can’t store any personal information. We don’t want to. The goal is to just let you know there’s a gun where a gun shouldn’t be,” Alaimo said.

The company is SOC 2 and ISO compliant. That’s just a fancy way of saying ZeroEyes meets the highest professional standards for privacy and security.

“I can’t make that point anymore clear. We take privacy and data security extremely seriously.”

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Author: James Clark- James Clark is the associate editor of Lubbock Lights. He worked in radio, television and digital media for a combined total of more than 30 years. He was Director of Digital News Content at KAMC, KLBK and for nearly 10 years.